Wireless Technologies

Crowdsourcing Innovation: Laurent Eschenauer, Fleye

Crowdfunding sites are offering a new path for inventors with original ideas. We talk to inventors looking to gain the public’s favour..

  Laurent Eschenauer

 Job title: CEO    

 Organisation: Fleye       

 Location: Liège, Belgium


Product: Fleye – Your personal flying robot


What it does & how it works:

Fleye is bringing the drone technology into the world of autonomous flying robots. The Fleye drone is equiped with a powerful on-board computer, capable of performing computer vision tasks. It exposes an API and SDK, enabling developers to program drone applications and turning Fleye into a truly autonomous flying robot.

What makes it special?

Fleye looks like a flying soccer ball. Its unique shape shields all moving parts, making it safe to fly nearby people. This is especially important given the autonomous nature of Fleye.

What’s your background, and what inspired you to come up with the idea?

I'm an Electrical Engineer who got a passion for drones and was looking for an interesting problem to solve in that space. Safety looked like a real challenge in needs of radical new solutions. I had the chance to meet Dimitri, my co-founder, he has extensive experience in Aerospace engineering, having worked for ten years in the defense industry.

Why Kickstarter?

Inspired by the Lean Startup movement and Open Innovation ideas, I'm convinced that the earlier a product is shown to the public the better. Kickstarter is fantatsic platform to get early market validation, showing that there is traction for a product, before investing important fixed costs into producing it.

Is Crowdfunding good for innovation? How so?

Crowdfunding is one of the many tools in the innovator toolbox. It enables you to test an idea once the prototyping stage has been reached, and before costly investments in scaling the production (models, benches, etc.). In addition to that, it also facilitates the cash-flow of industrializing a product.

Reactions on KS so far?

Excellent, we are a bit more than a week in the campaign and reaching the 75% funded milestone. What is also exciting is the number of requests we got for industrial collaboration, this is a direct result of the visibility we got from the campaign.

What have you learned from your campaign?

That there are developers out there who share our vision and have fantastic ideas of applications to build with our product. It proves that we were right to get out early with the idea and share it with the market.

When is the product due to ship?

September 2016

Is the Fleye for hobbyist or commercial users ?

Fleye does not target a broad consumer base, instead it targets hobbyists, developers, makers and entrepreneurs looking for a new kind of drone platform to experiment with use cases where proximity is important.


What’s your view on the current regulations for drone use?

This is the Wild West! The lack of clarity and the fragmentation across countries is slowing down the industry a lot. It is ridiculous to have national regulation in Europe for example, we need a common European set of rules if we don't want to kill the industry. Now, this has limited impact on Fleye, given our low weight and focus on indoor use.

What sort of applications would you like to see people developing with your API/SDK?

I think we'll have two broad groups of developers: the one who just want to have fun and will work on crazy games, hacks, experiments, like Fleye automatically tweeting whenever it sees someone etc. Then we'll have entrepreneurs/industrialists exploring use cases around indoor monitoring, maintenance, surveillance, etc.

Possible business use/advantage?

As for any kind of drone, the business advantage comes from automation and the capability to go in places that are dull, dirty, difficult or dangerous. Imaging Fleye be remotely controlled, on demand, to perform a routine inspection of a tooling, a facility, etc.

What’s next for the company and the product?

Deliver first a great product and develop a community of passionate users who will help us build the future of autonomous flying robots. We have many ideas on how to improve Fleye in the near future and look forward to keep on developing it.





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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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